14 SES 05 B, Schooling and Social Responsibility – Family, School , Corporate Relationships
Much of the literature about home-school relations tends to present it as if the different social actors (which, one should note, happen to be more than only parents and teachers) would not have different interests and develop their own agenda. Much of school-family relationships are idealized as free of tension, conflict and contradictions. Yet, authors such as Lightfoot (1978), Connell et al. (1982), Beattie (1985), Lareau (1989), David (1993), Montandon and Perrenoud (1994), Vincent (1996), Lahire (1995), Dubet (1997), Carvalho (2001), Silva (2003a), Stoer and Silva (2005), Van Zanten (2007), Henderson et al. (2007), Silva (2007) and Diogo (2008) tend to problematize this relationship.
I have theorized school-family relationships as including (Silva, 2003a): a) a relationship among cultures, i.e., a relation among the local culture(s) and school culture – this one theorized by Bourdieu, Bernstein and others as a predominantly written, urban and middle class one, and also as the social dominant culture in contemporary societies; and b) a double dyad (home and school strands; individual and collective dimensions of action). The first aspect means that culture relations are social relations, thus, power relations; so, school-family relations might act, though not necessarily, as a way of reproducing social and cultural inequalities (one of the reasons why I labelled it a “trapped relationship”, Silva, 2003a); the second aspect means we face a complex web of relations, where different social actors may act paradoxically in both strands and dimensions of action.
My investigation – about the influence of social class and gender in home-school relations – led me to find out that, sometimes, the complexity and subtlety of the production and reproduction of social relations in the home-school field, raises particular questions about specific actors. This is the case of he role fulfilled by those parents who happen to be teachers, which I name “parent-teachers”.
This interest comes from the fact that in my (ethnographic) research I “stumbled” in one aspect of the “reality” that I had not initially foreseen: the significant presence in the field of members of parents associations, including their leaders, who happened to be teachers.
Realizing that this issue is, in general, absent in the literature about school-family relationships, I tried to understand how their role could be characterized, which led me to raise several research questions and hypotheses (regarding parent-teachers): why were they there? What was the relationship between involvement and participation? Were they “more parents” or “more teachers”? How were they seen by the other actors? Would they be fully trusted by parents and teachers, as well? Would they be considered a sort of double agents? By whom: teachers, parents, or both? Or, on the contrary, would they be a sort of a privileged bridge between the school culture and the local culture? And, if so, why? Owing to the fact they were parents, teachers, middle class citizens, or some or all of them? Also: is this a specific Portuguese phenomenon or is it a broader one?
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